Data Use In Business. Social Innovation. Micro Business.

There Are People Behind Those Metrics, Remember

Part of my brand-spanking-new Friday Folly about life as a researcher in the business world. Warning - these might ramble on a bit. I’ll try my best to keep them short but things might get a little crazy.

I’m a regular Seth Godin reader (isn’t his blog a mind blower? It’s a brilliant blog) and I was reading his post the other day about empathizing with customers and making an effort to understand how other people view the world. 

He talked about the fact that a focus group or statistical analysis doesn’t dictate empathy.

And he’s right, especially when those statistical tools fall into the wrong hands. I think that us ‘research people’ get lumped in with the money shakers who only see cold numbers. But there is a bunch of us that went into research and statistics because we want to understand people better and be the voice of the customer. 

Researchers are often the link between what the customer says and the Director that’s working to a sales-driven quota.

We try to manage cold profit driven moves with a more customer-focused view. We often genuinely hope that our research is used to drive a better customer service environment or for a business to listen to their customers properly. 

We sit in meetings, board rooms and on teleconferences to present our data and hope that the powers that be will see that there are 1 in 10 people who don’t like a product dashboard — which is still a good portion even if it only nets out at 10%. 

I love it when I’m presenting some data and a Director or Vice-President replies with something like “Wow, we need to do something about that”. It happens and it’s brilliant. That’s when I love my job. 

I don’t like my job when, like Seth says, empathy and understanding is lost in numbers. The audience is only interested in what will make more dollars and that human element is lost. 

I think that can be partly my fault because it’s my job as a researcher to make the human connection to the numbers that I’m presenting. Sometimes it’s easy to do that - other times it can be nearly impossible. 

However, it’s important that numbers, data, feedback and metrics are seen as a piece of information from a human person. We’ve all (researchers and business leaders) been guilty of treating customers and consumers as ‘respondents’ in the past - taking the data and running into profit. It’s silly. 

I see research, numbers and metrics as a form of co-creation between the researcher, the business and the consumer/customer. Those numbers help a business and, in return, a company has the responsibility of being more customer-focused.

That means appreciating the feedback (whether it’s passive metrics or active through a survey) and delivering a better service.